Federalism debate goes to Parliament

CHIHANA—I don’t live in the past

After years of advocacy and lobbying, the motion for Malawi to adopt a federal system of government away from the current unitary system will now be tabled in Parliament for debate and possible adoption.

Federal system of government divides the powers of the government between the national (federal) government and state and local governments.

Mzimba-North Member of Parliament (MP), Yeremiah Chihana, is set to move a private members motion proposing a date to be announced.


Federalism advocate Bina Shaba said he hopes MPs appreciate that the unitary system of government has “failed the country”.

In a notice from Parliament, Chihana, who is Alliance for Democracy sole MP, said the motion would be moved in the interest of equitable distribution of resources and development projects.

He further holds that federalism is the solution to what he calls challenges that have been brought about by the quota system in the education sector.


He said Malawi’s politics has, in recent times, become elastic such that there was need to ensure equal participation in political decisions which affect all regions.

“…This House is satisfied that Malawi has now matured to change the system of government, and to that end, this House resolves that all efforts and legal framework should be put in place towards adoption of a federal system of government within a specified time period,” the notice reads.

In an interview Monday, Chihana said he hoped the changes and transition of the system of the government would happen before 2024 tripartite elections.

He said it was the people’s motivation to see things change in the country, refusing to divulge more details on what he intends to do to ensure that the motion gets majority votes in the august House when tabled.

“I do not want to pre-empt the debate. Wait until the Order Paper is out, because the Business Committee has to decide when the motion can be moved and all sorts of things. But one thing for sure is that it is a people’s motivation,” he said.

Asked on what different thing he brings to the federalism debate after it failed to see light of day between 2014 and 2016 Chihana said: “I don’t live in the past; I live in the future. I hope you know that this is the first time the federalism debate is being taken to Parliament.”

Commenting on whether the move has merit or not, Public Affairs Committee (Pac) Chairperson, Reverend Felix Chingota, said the quasi-religious group stands by the recommendations it made in its 2015 report on the matter.

In the report, Pac said it was up to Malawians to decide on whether the country should adopt the federal system of the government.

In reaction, the government’s spokesperson, Mark Botomani, Monday said the government would wait until the motion is tabled in Parliament.

“We do not even know if the Business Committee will adopt this motion to form part of business to be brought to the House when Parliament reconvenes after cluster committee meetings. Suffice to say that the administration of Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika has always pursued equitable distribution of development across the country and will continue to do so,” Botomani.

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